1786 Rupert Meetinghouse

The 1786 Rupert Meetinghouse is owned by the Congregational Church of Rupert, VT. It is listed on the State Register of Historic Places (#0210-5). It is the oldest community meetinghouse structure in continuous operation in the state of Vermont. It is described as being built c.1786, renovated in 1831 (porch, gallery and bell tower added), and again significantly renovated in 1859 with the addition of a full finished lower level that raised the sanctuary to the 2nd floor. This created more space for community gatherings and social functions, including agricultural meetings, town-meetings, educational functions, a singing school, sewing groups, community dinners and numerous other socials. It was in this meetinghouse that southern Vermont Volunteers took an oath to serve in the Union Army (1862-1865). An extension to the west was added c.1927 when plumbing was added including bathrooms and a central heating system. Since then, there have only been minor repairs and no structural changes to the facilities.

Historical Background

Prior to the mid- 1700’s the area around Rupert was inhabited by indigenous men and women for 12,000 years. Throughout the territory the historically competitive tribes of Abenaki and Mohawk were active in area at the time of European immigration. During the 1600’s French colonists claimed the territory as part of the colony of New France. English settlers arriving on the Atlantic claimed the land. Conflict ensued culminating in the Seven Year’s War (The French and Indian War) which forced the French from the area in 1763(France ceded all claims on territory east of the Mississippi to Great Britain at that time.) The provincial government of New York sold land grants to settlers in the Rupert region, which conflicted with earlier grants from the government of New Hampshire. The local militia, called the Green Mountain Boy’s protected the interests of the already established New Hampshire Land Grant settlers who were already in the area against the newly arrived settlers with land titles granted by New York. Ultimately, a group of settlers with New Hampshire land grant titles established in 1777 established the Vermont Republic as an independent state during the American Revolutionary War.

It was during the decades from the 1760’s to 1790’s that the rich history of Rupert was forged.

Samson Occom – indigenous Pastor and the Congregational Church of Rupert, VT

One of the early historical characters who came to the area was Samson Occom who was born in a wigwam on Mohegan land in 1723. Occom was a direct descendant of Uncas the Grand Sachem (chief) of the Mohegans. Occom had numerous claims to fame. He was an eloquent teacher and spiritual leader, he was one of the first ordained congregational Christian ministers in America, and he formed the New England Indian School. He traveled to England and raised eleven thousand pounds from wealthy patrons, including the Earl of Dartmouth, after who the Indian school was later named. Occom accepted the invitation to resettle with the New York Oneida’s.  On his trip north he spent time in the Rupert area where he joined together indigenous people and new settlers to the area establishing the groundwork for the establishment of what in now the Congregational Church of Rupert, VT and it’s historic 1786 Meetinghouse. Local historian Ruth Rasey chronicling early life in Rupert pointed out, “Like all first settlers in Vermont, they were religious people and Samson Occom played an important role in bringing settlers and native folk together (circa 1768). “Occom watched as the thirty-eight by thirty- foot boxlike wooden edifice was built”, Ruth Rasey writes of the settlers, “All of the people being of one faith, church and town government in those days were closely united.”